Batch #3: Queso Blanco

Another weekend, another batch of cheese. This Sunday I whipped up Queso Blanco.

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Ricki Carrol’s recipe was straight forward and easier than mozzarella.

Ingredients were easy to find: whole milk and cider vinegar. Technique included heating the milk slowly to between 185-190 degrees while stirring frequently. Then slowly add in the cider vinegar to make the curds emerge. As I write the post, the curds are draining for 2-3 hours in the kitchen.

What I learned:

  • My digital thermometer kept freezing up around 163 degrees. I realized I had it on a setting to determine ideal temperature for cooked pork. I was unable to turn off the setting entirely, however I was able to switch the setting over to chicken which required a 180 degree temperature when cooked well. Image
  • Determining where to hang the cheese cloth bag was hilarious. My husband and I tied up the cheese bag onto our kitchen sink’s faucet. I had the colander immediately below in case the cheese bag fell, however my biggest problem was the cheese bag was slipping back on the top of the faucet. First I tried using a magnet to block the cloth from slipping backwards, but alas – wrong metal? Then my husband recommended using a rubber band, which worked perfectly.

Open questions:

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  • Do vinegars come in different acidity levels?
    The cider vinegar I had on hand has a 5% acidity level. I’m curious whether all vinegars are at the same level, or whether this will affect cheese making.
  • Any recommendations on where to hang your cheese to drain?
    I would love to see what other cheese makers do to rig their cheese cloth up for draining.
  • Can you reuse cheese cloth?
    If so, any recommendations on how to properly clean the cloth?
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Batch #2: 30-Minute Mozzarella, Ricki Carroll Recipe

30 Minute Mozzarella Recipe

Success! Sweet success. I completed my first edible batch of cheese. Batch #2 of 30-minute mozzarella gave me my cheese confidence back.

The Recipe

Thank you Ricki Carroll for making a recipe that I could follow. I tried her 30-minute mozzarella and followed the recipe as closely as I could understand to do so. The result was two 6-7″ long milky logs of mozzarella eaten at room temperature with olive oil, fresh basil and cherry tomatoes. What a snack!

Key Learnings

  • Good rennet matters. Forget the tablets I purchased from the grocery store. This time I went to Austin Homebrew Supply (for beer making). They had a small section for cheese makers, and I purchased a higher-quality rennet that was vegetable based. I chatted with one of the gentlemen there about rennet and citric acid. He said the rennet I purchased at the grocery store was more for making homemade Jello, not cheese. Also he said all citric acid is created equal (there isn’t a difference in “good” citric acid versus “bad” citric acid).
  • Lipase – the first time I followed a 30-minute mozzarella recipe, it did no call for Lipase. This time I purchased a mild flavor Lipase that can be kept for 8 monthsonce opened in the freezer.
  • Unchlorinated water – all city tap water is chlorinated. I purchased non-chlorinated water for my receipe.
  • Store bought milk – the first time I tried a similar recipe, I spent $8 on fresh, whole milk that I could only find at a famers’ market on Saturdays. This time I used whole milk that was not ultra pasteurized for about $3.44 from the grocery store. Cheaper and more convenient.
  • Diluting ingredients – it was interesting how different Ricky’s recipe was when it came to diluting the rennet, lipase and citric acid. All three ingredients required dilution in unchlorinated water for up to 20 minutes prior to adding the ingredients to the milk.
  • Cheese spoon – Have a good wooden spoon handy. For this recipe, you reheat the cheese in the microwave and it is insanely hot when it comes out. Also there areoften little pockets of water within the cheese when you start kneading it that will burst boiling water on your hands. I found a wooden spoon was helpful to use for the first minute or so when kneading cheese to prevent scalded hands.

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Open questions 

  • What do people do with their excess whey?
    I have a giant popcorn bowl full of whey liquid. It seems like a shame dumping it down the drain. Ideas I found for whey include making shampoo, smoothies, boiling pasta in it and others. Any ideas?
  • At what stage can you flavor the mozzarella?
    Now that I have the basics of the recipe down, I’m curious about the appropriate time to add flavors – say garlic, fresh herbs or pepper.
  • Is it okay if my Rennet isn’t totally dissolved? This time, my vegetable-based Rennet tablet fourth had soaked for 20 minutes, yet it didn’t entirely dilute in the water. Is this OK?